Yoga practices for developing the body include diaphragmatic breathing, yoga postures (Asanas)
and a sentient diet. Yoga practices for developing the mind include following moral principles, breath
control, sensory withdrawal and concentration. Yoga practices for spiritual development include
meditation and contemplation, company of spiritual people and service to plants, animals and human
beings. Putting it all together we can summarize Yoga as an integrated system of physical, mental
and spiritual practices whose aim is self-realization.
Beginners to the practice of meditation may face many obstacles including sore back, sore legs,
a restless mind, dullness, sleepiness, headaches, etc. The heart may be ready but the body and mind
are not. Yoga Postures (Asanas) can help overcome these obstacles. By performing Yoga Asanas regularly – stretching, strengthening and balancing the body, ???breathing: and focusing energy on particular points in the
body – we can overcome these problems and sit for meditation feeling relaxed, alert, calm
Yoga Asanas have been developed steadily over thousands of years as an aid to good physical and
mental health, well-being and self-realization. Many of the Asanas are named after animals that the
Yogis imitated in order to gain their particular strengths. Various health problems including hypertension,
indigestion, heart disease, arthritis, asthma and cancer can be prevented and often cured through the
practice of Asanas combined with meditation and diet.
Yoga postures have a number of unique features which set them apart from other forms of exercise:
- They stretch and relax the nerves, muscles and joints, creating a pleasant feeling of relaxation, increasing flexibility and promoting the free flow of energy through the body.
- They require a minimum expenditure of physical energy and thus do not create mental dullness.
- They nourish and tone specific and often neglected organs and glands by directing the flow of blood, lymph and mental concentration to that area. The hormones secreted by the endocrine glands control our physical, mental and emotional states. By balancing these hormonal secretions, Yoga Asanas promote optimal physical and emotional conditions.
- They enable the practitioner to divert the flow of energy to higher centres in the body, resulting in control over desires and subtlety of awareness.
- Through use of the breath they purify the blood and promote calmness, concentration and depth of perception.
- Through use of balance and motionlessness they promote mental steadiness and calmness.
- Through strengthening and cleaning the organs of elimination they make the body free of toxins and the mind clear.
- Through use of concentration they promote mental stability and perception.